How win free media for your business – Part TWO

In the first post, we set the scene. Media is a tough business and you have to put yourself in their shoes if you are going to understand how to approach them.

Below, there are 15 pieces of advice, that will help you win a nice steady stream of free media attention, which will strengthen your brand with your current and prospective clients, staff and investors…

Most media organisations like to post positive stories – not all journalists are looking for an axe to grind, but some are, so stay away from them.

There are some easy things you can do to increase the chances of your business being covered in a positive light, consistently…

  1. Have a MEDIA page on your website – here you will post your latest press releases, published news stories, clear links to people (or the person) inside your organisation that deals with media enquiries, and a library of logos, photos and images (in various media-friendly versions). Have press kits, backgrounders and case stories on your business. A good example of this is here: http://www.boundlss.com/press/ (simple, small AI business) or https://about.canva.com/press/ (large, well known business).
  2. Be AVAILABLE! Make yourself available to be interviewed over the phone or in person. Respond to media interviews, and act in a professional manner. (Treat journalists like clients, not pests!)
  3. Learn how to produce a well written professional MEDIA RELEASE. (The 3rd post in this series will deal with this.)
  4. Grab ATTENTION! There is a lot of clutter and too much information around, especially in media organisations under time pressure and with thin staffing levels. Cut through the clutter with a great headline and first paragraph. If you are talking about something very topical (war on waste, blockchain, AI, data analytics … ) then use that as your way in. Piggyback on existing stories that are already running well in media.
  5. Be INTERESTING! What’s unusual about your business or what you are doing? Give stats and trends. Give context.
  6. TEACH! Give something away in your story, something that people can take away and learn from. Something you have learned. Give in order to receive.
  7. Try to be real and HUMAN, and not overly rehearsed. You can be too media-trained. Think about what you are saying, but talk in a normal conversational way. Think about some nice snippy sound bites that the media could use and quote you on.
  8. Do your RESEARCH. Find out which journalists and online influencers write about your area, and get to know them. Reach out to them. Buy them a coffee. Show them what you are doing. Discover what stories they like to write about, their interests, and then feed them relevant stories over time. Listen to them. Thank them after the piece is published. Tweet the resultant article out mentioning their twitter handle.
  9. CUSTOMISE your message to the relevant media; in that way you can use the same basic story with more than one media outlet. Sometimes. But be careful, if you hock the exact same story around to all media, don’t be surprised if no one picks it up. Each media has their own audience, so you can change the message accordingly. Or sprinkle stories around different media over time (better).
  10. Become an AUTHORITY in your specialist area. Once you have had some media coverage, you may find the media comes to you for your thoughts. Great! This is free media you don’t even have to arrange beforehand, and it’s wonderful branding.
  11. FOLLOW UP! Just like the best sales people do. Don’t just smash out some press releases and hope events will take their course. They invariably won’t. You need to ring up and ask the journalist ‘Are you going to use the story? Would you like to arrange a time for a photo and interview?’ Get on the phone. Don’t hide behind a keyboard and just spam journos with emails. (The basic rule is: if you already have a good relationship with someone, email; if you don’t yet, pick up the phone.)
  12. Be REALISTIC. You may think you have the best thing since sliced bread, but the journo may not know you at all, or appreciate what you have developed. Building a media profile can take months and years. Not everything works. But if you persist, listen and learn, it will happen. Don’t be put off if you don’t get any media attention for a while.
  13. Use SOCIAL MEDIA. Be savvy. Pithy headlines that can be tweeted. If they are a play on words they may be shared well beyond your own networks. Think creatively. Follow journos on social media, twitter and LinkedIn especially. Remember to copy them in if the publish you.
  14. MULTIMEDIA. Can you do a 60 second video? A 10 second meme? Learning how to do this can make your message multiply many-fold.
  15. SHARE the coverage far and wide. When you do get covered, make sure you share this with all your networks. Print the article and frame it, display it in your boardroom or entry foyer for all to see (current and potential staff, clients, media, board members and investors…).

As in all things, persistence and patience wins.

Don’t do the above, and very little (if anything) will come to you. So don’t whinge that the media is ignoring if you do little yourself to make it happen.

The THIRD POST in this series will deal with Press Releases.

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Is your twitter account yours?

Does a company have the right to your twitter account after you leave their employment? Are they in control of what you send out while you work for them? Should they be? Can they be? Does it matter?

These questions have vexed many a business owner and manager, and I’d like to share some of my own personal views on the matter.

I believe that if a member of staff has their own twitter account, with their own name, whether created before or during their employment with us, it is their property.

Take for example, someone called Jo Smith…

If their account handle is @josmith, that is their name, and they will take it with them if and when they leave. The account itself is not company property, nor are the followers of that account.

If they tweet as themselves, they may tweet about their work and/or their own life. Being employed is part of their life, but not all of it. I would ask that if they tweet about anything official, something about us, and even perhaps about something unrelated, they do so with all due respect and realise that as part of their life is being employed with us, they take that into account. I would ask them to be courteous and wary of what they post, and that everything they send out (once sent) is permanent. Even a deleted tweet can be retweeted (or screenshotted) before you get a chance to delete it.

We provide coaching tips and guidelines to all staff members, and sometimes sessions, on how to use social media at work – the traps, the way it can work, how it can benefit their and our brand.

I believe a twitter account is very different to a staff member’s official email account (which absolutely is company property, including its name being that our company brand forms part of the address, and is run off our servers).

When and if Jo moves on from our employment, he or she can take their twitter handle and account with them … but not their email account. Their own name is Jo Smith and belongs to them (not the company), and so @josmith, and all its followers, moves with them.

To be honest, their twitter account is not much use to me after they leave anyway, even if I insisted I retain it. Their contacts, or followers, followed them for various reasons, and enjoyed (or not) their content. I don’t believe I have the authority to take over their persona, even during their employment with me, and certainly not after it. Even if I did, what would I do – carry on tweeting as them? Change the name and twitter handle? That’s deception.

I have noticed some companies (such as the ABC) have some of their reporters use a twitter handle such as @josmithABC, which presumably is created when they join, and ties Jo’s twitter account to the ABC, and only the ABC.

I actually don’t follow this policy because, what happens when Jo leaves the ABC? Are you going to rename his twitter account, take it off him, and give it to someone else? Shut it down? Plus, if you do this with all your staff, then they will have to start their accounts from scratch, and it can take a long time to build up connections and followers. What happens to their personal ones? Do they now run two?

I would argue that when Jo joined me, he or she brought with them everything learnt prior. Their skills, experience and yes, even their social media nous, was what I was hiring. When they leave, that walks out the door with them. When they arrive, I benefit from all their former employment and education and experience (this is what I am hiring, after all), and when they leave, that leaves too.

I try to treat all staff the same. If they have their own social media accounts (most have several), then our social media policy does remind them that whenever they use it, part of their audience knows they work for us, and for them to be respectful of that. We have a public persona, a brand, and that needs protecting, and hopefully, building upon. They do too.

On my own twitter account, which I started in 2009, two employers ago, I clearly state who I am, and that any views are mine and not of my employer. However, I always try to use my accounts to the best of the company’s goals, by liking and sharing content (but overly so, so as to annoy my followers) as part of my overall social media strategy.

See > https://twitter.com/ChazGunningham

Social media has developed into an important communication tool, and like the computer, phone and pen and paper before it, has its own foibles, pros and cons as compared to other forms of communication. What one needs to remember is that this form of communication is now permanent, and that proper staff coaching, including providing clear guidelines, tips and traps, is essential these days.

Two natural ways to increase sales

Bob2

A business owner friend and I were discussing the current business environment this week, and swapping notes on what works (and what does not) when it comes to increasing sales.

Assuming the product and services are in demand and provide value to customers, there seem to be two relatively easy ways a business owner/development manager could increase sales …

  1. Attend 2 or 3 business events a week

Now, a word of caution here. You don’t go along with sales uppermost in your mind. Your intent is to meet new people, make some connections and add value to their conversations and knowledge.

The more you do this in the right spirit (‘give more than you expect to receive‘), the better you will become at it, the more people you will meet, the more of their connections you will be allowed to make, and you will actually walk away with more sales opportunities, and ultimately more sales.

People are naturally gregarious, which means we are wired to cluster in groups. (Be they sporting clubs, political parties or when we attend a business event.) So go along to these gatherings, regularly, and, although it might seem a bit daunting at first, here’s a trick I learned from the master of networking himself, Ron Gibson:

As you walk into the room, don’t go over to people you already know (by all means say ‘Hi’ to them) but head directly for those you don’t. In fact, make a beeline for a person who is on their own. They will probably standing at the fringe of the event, hoping the walkpaper swallows them up, feeling a bit uncomfortable and nervously looking at something interesting on their phone. They will normally be relieved and delighted to see you approaching them, smiling, introducing yourself. Ask them what they are doing here, what their business is, and engage them in conversation. Show genuine interest in what they do, while exploring in your mind how you might best help them. (Not how they can help you, the other way around). When you get a chance let them know how you can help them (if possible) and also explain what you do, and you’ll quickly see if there is any common ground. If relevant, swap cards, and maybe promise to catch up in a few days time. Try to make 4 or 5 new contacts this way at every meeting. Attending 2 or 3 a week means you’ll quickly gather 10 or more new potentially useful business contacts every week, and remember, each will have 100 or more contacts of their own. The value of this regular exercise is the permission you win to gain access to these new people.

Pick your events wisely. I have found the ones set up expressly for networking are not necessarily the best ones as they can attract those that are only trying to sell. You know the kind. The same people frequent them, they are usually free. Go to a variety of professionally run (and often paid for) business functions, because that’s where the interesting business people are. As a nice bonus, you will also learn much from the presentations and discussions on stage. Some might be stand up cocktail functions, others a sit down breakfast or lunch. Either way, there will be opportunities to mix and mingle, where it is far easier to stay seated or in your comfort zone. Most will stick to who they know. But as a wise sale coach told me recently, you only grow when you are out of your comfort zone. So get up and go meet some people. People are naturally friendly in this setting, far more so than if you cold called them. So get it done!

Consistently doing this over time expands your own networks, and believe me, for someone like me, not born or bred in this fair city, it has worked a treat.

In fact, failing to do this not only harms your business, it also limits your career opportunities. I’ve had 6 jobs in my 30-year career so far, but have only ever had less than a handful formal job interviews. My last 4 jobs (spread over almost 2 decades) have not stemmed from a formal job interview at all. They have been gained through networks I have forged over time, and often from cups of coffee or a phone call from a referral. I even sold my business within 6 weeks of an initial coffee meeting where the idea was first mooted.

Following up with those people you can help, that you might open doors for (and they you), is critical. This is where you need a good system to lock away your new contacts in your Outlook Contacts or a CRM (client relationship management) system. Using something like CamCard (a free app that takes a photo of business cards and automatically synchs the data into your contacts) can make it a piece of cake.

       2. Treating LinkedIN like a business event

I treat LinkedIN in the same way I do a live business networking event – I go there to meet new people, connect and add value. The more you do this the more new business will drop off the bottom as a matter of course. I also do this with Twitter, and to a lesser degree Facebook and Instagram.

Essentially, LinkedIN is very much like business networking, except you don’t have to physically meet someone first. Again, don’t go on there to sell, go there to connect and add value, and in time you will meet loads of new people, some of whom will be interested in how you can help them (and they you),  and the permission to sell to them (or one or more of their contacts) may be granted. I have met many new business contacts this way. I have also used it to get into a company, that hitherto had seemed impossible.

As in networking events, be careful not to cross that line. Don’t go on LinkedIN too much (10 minutes a day will suffice), and use it to meet new people, publish and share interesting information. Be the better Roman. Share and like other people’s posts. Add some comments. Share and publish something of your own.

~

As with all these things, it’s about persistence and consistency. If you only do a little bit for a few weeks assuming this to be ground breaking, you will be sorely disappointed. Do not expect results straight away, learn as you go. Don’t overdo it either – there are people in every town (mine included) that have a bad reputation of spamming people on these networks and at business events. They’re always there, and sadly, they seem blissfully unaware that whenever their name is mentioned, you can hear collective groans of disapproval. Don’t be them!

Get out there and be seen, both physically and on LinkedIN, in the right way, and I promise you will make more connections and win more opportunities to do more business. You might enjoy a pretty nice career as a result.

Extra resource: Read this excellent post > ‘Scared of Networking? How to kill it at your next event

So many flearnings (my startup journey)!

flearning

Last week I did a talk to BloomLab, the university based co-working space for student startup folk here in Perth, WA. My slides are visible above (and also here).

Here is my 10 “flearnings” (learning from failures) – hard won advice from making the wrong decisions (many times), but learning from them.

  1. Startups are easy

Wrong, well actually, right – startups ARE easy, initially; as what you are mostly doing at the outset is “buying things”, and, as a board member once told me, “any fool can go out and buy something”. You raise some money, or maybe invest your own (along with friends, fools and family), and/or max out your credit card(s), and then go on a buying spree … buying programmers, office space, cool marketing campaigns, staff, …. It’s a buzz of excitement, and you’re wearing cool clothes, have ditched the jacket and tie, and are in a startup.

Wrong!

Businesses only survive if they are SELLING things, that is, collecting revenue. And that means someone ELSE is doing the buying, from you. Unless you are creating value by solving a problem for them (your clients), they will not buy from you. If they don’t, you ain’t got a business. Startups are hard. Selling is hard work. Not many startups are cut out for it. But everyone should be sales, including (and especially including) the fancy pancy founders and CEO.

  2. Build it, and they will come

Wrong! Although ultimately the service should sell itself, very few will do this from the get go.

Also, don’t fall into trap that the next release, the latest new functionality, will solve all your problems. ‘Once we add this feature we’ll be home and hosed’. Nope.

Having a great product is very important (as long as it solves a problem that people will pay to remove), but it’s a necessary, not sufficient, factor in your startup succeeding.

3. We’ve got a great product!

A related fallacy to #2 above. The worst sales person falls in love with their  product. The best fall in love with their clients’ problems.

We thought we were building the greatest map-based property web site (even if we were that was irrelevant). We thought we were solving home searching and making it easier. Well, yes we may have been, but they weren’t our clients. They were our users. Our clients were real estate agents, and paying a monthly subscription. We had to solve their problems. What was their problem? NOt selling properties. Properties sell. Buyers seek them out (buyers like to buy, remember? espeically property, especially in Australia.)

‘Getting listings’ is the real estate problem. Good listings. Ones that will sell. Ones that have nice owners. As soon as we realised this, we developed more and more features (including web development and even a magazine) that helped them get listings. ‘List and last’.

Who is paying you? They are your clients. Solve their problems. Full stop.

4. Spend loads of money on ads

If we’d had a bucket load of money for ads, we would have just used it. (There’s that buying itch again!) So what? We might have felt good watching our TV ads, hearing the radio commercials or watching the bus ads zoom by. So may our staff and investors. Would it have brought us revenue? Probably not. So many dotcoms spent huge amounts on advertising (or ‘brand’ as they euphemistically put it), so more people would come to the site, have a ‘meh’ experience, which meant you had to raise more money to get a different set of people to the site. And so on.

Have you ever seen an ad for Google? [Well, OK, I did see this one, and it was great, but it was not a traditional ad in any sense.] Promote the site through making it easy to spread, make it sticky (people stay on), make it elastic (draws people back). This could be about design, in built devices (such as Dropbox offering extra storage if you referred customers), encourage content sharing, etc. Use the free media; journo needs stories. Treat journos & influential bloggers as clients. Take them out for coffee. Don’t just do mass press releases; tailor your media approaches and provide exclusives.

5. Do regular, massive big upgrades

No; keep innovating, but not in a wholus bolus way, as that will ruin things for your users. Changing how the whole site works really annoys your loyal fans. Keep improving things, based on testing and feedback, in an iterative manner. Be fluid, add features, yes, but also think of ways to keeping it simple. UX (user experience) is all important these days. It’s a refined skill, and you will inch (not blast) your way there.

6. There’s either a tech solution or there isn’t

It’s not that cut and dried. The times I was told something was impossible, then the programmers would wander in all sheepishly and show me how they’d solved it (bless their little cotton socks). You get to learn what’s hard and what’s easy. I’ve found a simple truth in all this – it’s never the technology, it’s the people.

7. You’re on your own

Not true! There are multitudes of people out there, probably hammering away at similar type businesses solving similar problems, every day. Network, go to startup events, find people, ask questions, provide value yourself (give and it shall be returned). Years before Spacecubed, Perth Morning Startup, Startup Weekends and the rest, a few internet enterpreneurs still going in the mid 2000s formed ‘eGroup’, as much for the emotional support as anything.

There are now over 30 places and programs you can visit in Perth alone to find alike minded people and support…

Perth-Startup-Network-Sep15

View a full list here

8. SEO is a black art & expensive

I learned much of what I know by trial and error, but the importance of ‘title tags’ and ‘H1’ headings were not lost on me. Get these right and 80% of your search engine optimisation is done. Also, hire someone local who knows that they’re doing. (Direct message me if you want to be introduced to Perth people I have used and recommend.)

The SEO and SEM (search engine marketing) ‘industry’, along with social media and web/app development, is not a regulated so anyone can hang up a shingle and claim they have knowledge. Beware of stupid ‘I can put you on the 1st page of Google’ claims, because no one can guarantee that (well, not before knowing what search phrase is important, and how competitive that is, and how your site is written/updated).

And don’t try to cheat the system. Do not engage in ‘black  hat’ tactics (hiding white text on white backgrounds, keyword stuffing, content automation and the like) to get a higher ranking. Anything that looks like a shortcut is a shortcut, and could get you blacklisted (removed) from search results. It’s hard work, done over time. It’s cumulative. Google is only trying to find the most appropriate site for the search terms entered, so be that site. Have interesting, fresh content. Change it up and keep posting.

9. Social media is all nonsense / waste of time

Really? How do you view the telephone, email or web sites in general?

Social media is just a communications tool. Use some or all of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram … to engage with your audience, build your brand, learn about your market/competitors and all the other things it can do. Use them as part of your overall strategy. You can’t do everything, so decide what makes sense for you and what you can execute on well. And keep doing it, and keep learning.

Allocate time for it, and who is going to do what. Best case is everyone does some of it, and lends a hand to some degree, in the same way everyone probably uses email or the phone to some degree. Don’t allow it to be addictive. Have a plan, train your staff, measure what you do, keep what works and ditch what doesn’t.

In promotional campaigns, mix traditional advertising and social, and watch the impact of your promotions make a larger impact and last longer.

Do not buy links, likes or followers. Build your social media presence organically (the occasional Facebook promoted post, OK), and watch your Klout score to gauge which activities work the best.

10. I will build for a PC 

Think mobile first, because that is now becoming the largest environment online. Build for mobile, and then PC. With a mobile responsive site, you can pretty much have your cake and eat it. 40% of Australian traffic is now on mobile during weekdays, and more than 50% in the evenings and at weekends.

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So there you go, 10 flearnings, from 10 failed mistakes I have made (some of many, many more I could bore you with). Despite making loads of these errors, and learning the hard way, we did survive 10+ years, so we did OK…

All the best with your startup!

SLIDES AVAILABLE HERE >> http://www.slideshare.net/CharlieGunningham/so-many-flearnings-my-startup-journey

Why your LinkedIN profile needs a good photo

LinkedIN pix

I was lazily scrolling through LinkedIN the other day and got to that bit where people who you may know are served up to you as in some professional speed dating site (not that I know what that looks like). You know, the rows and rows of people who are linked to people you are linked to, hence LinkedIN’s clever little algorithm thinks they might make good connections for you.

As I scrolled down, I noticed that less than half had a proper photo – a neat, professional-looking head and shoulders shot taken with a neutral background that clearly shows the person concerned. About a quarter had no photo at all (what are they hiding?), just that grey shadow image that LinkedIN defaults to if someone hasn’t even bothered to upload a picture of themselves. About another quarter had photos from the beach, or the logo of their company, or a cartoon, kids pictures, bad selfie, a tiny photo, squished photo, blurry photo, a studio (I am not making this up), a picture of 5 people (this is not Facebook!)… you get the picture (or not, as they case may be).

So I was wondering what these people were playing at. I assume this was done through either laziness (they’ve not got around to getting a proper photo done), or they did not know how to take or upload a photo, or they genuinely thought the logo was the done thing, or the beach shot was ‘kewl’. Now, I’m not saying I’m some expert, but if I’m looking to make a new connection (or recognise an old one) I go straight to the face. I think we all do. Human nature.

To me, no clear photo means you are either trying to hide something or do not know how to network online or have nefarious intent (like spamming, or monotonous self promotion). Either way, I’m moving on.

In my frustration, I posted this to my LinkedIN status:

I don’t understand people on LinkedIN who do not have a photo of themselves in their profile… (or worse, a bad one).

It would appear I am not alone. Here are some of the comments I received …

  1. Matt Edwards Matt Edwards

    Some of us don’t have much to work with Charlie 🙂

  2. Danny Grillo Danny Grillo

    Serious? – Pole Dancing?

  3. Lyn Hawkins Lyn Hawkins

    Matthew Wallis take note. It’s not just me who thinks this way…

  4. Matthew Wallis Matthew Wallis

    thanks Lyn Hawkins! Duly noted 🙂

  5. Marisse de Wet Marisse de Wet

    Or that view your profile anonymously … Really..?!?

  6. Rob Haynes Rob Haynes

    Or have out of date contact details, or no contact details at all…….

  7. Cameron Gurr Cameron Gurr

    No contact details are better than out of date ones. You can always hit someone up through the messaging service. But bad photos…

  8. Peter Taliangis Peter Taliangis

    Yes Charlie Gunningham as you know it is the first tip in my Linkedin presentations – Good Photo – want to see you face – want it to match the person I meet when I see you in “Your Job” – Dont want to see a logo, ball photo, wedding photo, night club photo, photo with more than one person in it, selfie taken at the beach in your bikini etc etc Sevgi Erogul, Matt Edwards, Danny Grillo, Lyn Hawkins, Matthew Wallis, Marisse de Wet, Rod Haynes, Cameron Gurr 🙂

  9. Warren Hinchliffe Warren Hinchliffe

    I agree completely re photos, no logos, cartoons or poor quality holiday or boozy party iPhone snaps. I have seen some shockers and have occasionally sent people a message that it is not in their best interest. Get someone to take it for you, well lit, well focused AND well dressed. If you can’t get a friend or rellie to take it, get a professional. Even one from a shopping centre booth.

Notice 9 out of the 10 have nice profile photos, except in one case, who was called out on it, and saw the error of their way!

So, dear LinkedIN wannabe connection, get a proper photo done. First impressions count you know, and usually last.

Pic Credit: examples taken from Andrew McCarthy.com

How to rule the roost with Twitter (and why you need to)

I’ve been on Twitter now for over 5 years, and this Tuesday I’m speaking at the AMI annual conference on ‘How to Rule the Roost with Twitter – and why you need to.‘ I believe I only know a small fraction of what Twitter can do, and probably practice even less. But if you were to drop me on a desert island with but one social media, I would take Twitter. Why? Because, it’s so damn powerful, and yet like most of the best things, incredibly simple.

Here’s a link to my Prezi

I remember getting on Twitter (rather begrudgingly – why do we need another social network? and with such a silly name?) and within 6 months I was running seminars that other people would pay to attend, to learn about Twitter… from me! Most people do not (and have not) persisted with it, most notably Bunnings, who seem to have ignored it with much disdain ever since they sent out their first (and as yet only) tweet on the 3rd Feb 2012 (having joined in May 2011 – so presumably they sat around and strategised what their first tweet would be for 8 months?). What a lost opportunity. Masters has tweeted out over 2,600 times and counting. They have a higher Klout score, thousands more followers and are engaging with their marketplace, being human, being social. Not that it’s a numbers game. It’s actually a quality, deep game.

With Twitter you can pin down topics, hear what people are saying about things right now, and interact, learn, engage and pass it forward. You can discuss, listen, remind, laugh, have a little dig, and discover incredible content.

The only way to find out is actually to go do it. Like most things.

Nice bucket challenge

ice bucket challenge

The #icebucketchallenge is the viral social media event of the year, and unless you’ve been hiding under a rock these past few weeks, you’ve probably seen countless videos in your news feeds or read about it online, in the paper or on TV news.

I succumbed last Sunday. My kids enjoyed the set up and execution, and one of the three people I challenged completed it within 24 hours. I’d first noticed it a week or so ago and now it’s reached saturation. The US charity that benefits has had $100million in donations in a month, more than twice what it raises in a normal year. Last week the UK charity’s website had more hits to its web site in one day last week than it receives in a year.

Along with the fun and good cause came the inevitable criticisms – of wasting fresh water, high % of donations going to admin, the narcissistic show-offs and icebucketchallenge fails. One of the founders of the challenge actually died (in an unrelated diving incident) earlier this month. He had started the whole thing to raise awareness and donations for a 20 year old friend who had just been diagnosed.

Motor neuron disease (which is also referred to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, sometimes Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a particularly nasty and progressive muscle wasting disorder for which there is no known cure, and usually leads to death inside three to five years. I have known 2 former colleagues who succumbed to MND, and the pain and anguish of their loved ones was terrible to bear as they saw these fine people literally waste away. Steven Hawking is one of the most famous people afflicted. He is one of the 4% that last over 10 years – he has lived over 50 years with it having been told he had 2 years at best. He (of course) also did the challenge.

While the repetitive challenges across social media (amusing at first) might be wearing thin for some, and be annoying for others, there is no doubt that a huge increase in awareness regarding this terrible disease has resulted, plus extra millions has been raised. This has to be good. Yes, some people do the challenge to show off, but the whole idea of the challenge had this at its centre, and is why it went viral. It included video (so easy to do now on your phone, click, up it goes to facebook or instagram) and the chain-mail letter idea of challenging 3 others meant it mushroomed. It also brought the world together a little bit – I’ve watched challenges of rock stars, politicians and adults and kids from all over the world. I’ve seen school and Uni friends I’ve not seen in decades do it, friends of friends and others.

The challenge has resulted in various forms of humblebragging (people trying to act humble but showing off – it is public after all), jealousy (people decrying the whole thing with aloof protest) and not a little creativity (my favourite being India’s rice bucket challenge, where Indians give poor people a bucket of rice and challenge others to do likewise).

Making this all possible of course is social media; none of the this would have happened without the connected world we live in; and for one thing, I prefer a connected world, to one where everyone is disengaged and removed.

Do the challenge or not; no skin off my nose – but all along, you can but marvel at its scope and power. If it helps find a cure for ALS, who are we to argue?

For more on ALS and to donate: http://alsa.org

Social media and customer service

customer service

A CEO (of a company in the UK) put out a circular to his staff last week asking them how they could use social networking to “improve customer service” or “reduce potential complaints“. I find the question itself interesting (and revealing) – customer service is the experience the buyer has when they interact with your service. It’s totally in their mind. It’s how the phone is answered, it’s how reception looks, it’s every little thing… These days everyone expects good customer service, even great, so the objective now for businesses is to ‘wow‘. Only by ‘wowing’ can you set yourself apart. It’s the new normal. And that’s got to be good for customers.

A few years ago, as we started our small online business, I remember reminding my staff that we had to wow our customers every day, at every opportunity. Considering we had pesky real estate agents as customers, that was going to be a challenge (!) We did not use social networks to “improve customer service” or “reduce potential complaints”. We used good old fashioned manners and courtesy. I employed people (irrespective of their IT background) who could learn fast but had a deep seated desire to help people. These two aspects were all we needed.

Roll on ten years and we’re in an era of social connectivity. The water cooler conversation of old is twitter today. Organisations in 2014 can use social media to actively watch what people are saying (using # and @ discussions on their name), they can engage with their customers, answer questions, post ideas, ask things, forward good thoughts, thank people for their points, etc. even turn around complainers. Most companies have a full time person on this, or a team of people.

Example – I was giving a “Twitter for real estate agents” course a few years ago, and an agent I will call Barry (for that was his name, bless him) did a search on his own company and was alarmed to find this one tweet had been put up only a few hours earlier: “Property —— <name deleted> are the worst real estate agent – stay away! ” Barry was distraught. What should he do? Could he sue the person? Delete it? After he calmed down a bit, I asked him to call his office and see what this person was talking about and why. He came back and said it was already sorted, the person had been a tenant and had not got her bond back, so had vented on Twitter. OK, so what now? Barry tweeted her back saying he’d sorted out the issue, and to call him in the office if things were not all fine. A few hours later, the tweet was removed (only the person who tweets can remove the message). Problem removed, and I bet that lady had a high opinion of the company as a result, and told her friends about it, as I am telling you now.

Ignoring twitter does not stop people talking about you anyway. Better to be ON there and (at least) surveying the conversation, then maybe taking part, engaging, adding, contributing …

My favourite example of customer service and social media is one I use a lot in my talks – that of Peter Shankman in 2011 and his fantastic true story of Mortons steakhouse. This actually happened, and was not a set up! Peter’s story of how a steakhouse got a meal to him after a long business day and a flight back to New York provided so much free press and positive attention for Mortons over the next few days and months, worth in the multi millions, and all for a simple act of being awake, involved and having the wherewithal to act.

By contrast, I posted 2 Aussie companies and their comparative use of social media around customer service.

Can social media be used to  “improve customer service” or “reduce potential complaints”? Sure, but that’s a bit like saying can you use the phone (or words, or technology, or…) to give great customer service. You’re asking the question the wrong way round.

Infographic above: from Clicksoftware 2012

10 Surprising facts about Twitter

Twitter facts

I remember being very sceptical about Twitter when I first came across it in 2008, but being encouraged to give it a go, and then persist with it, it slowly became my favourite (and most useful) of all the social media. I can’t really imagine life without it now. { As some of you may know, I once walked inside the Twitter HQ in San Francisco.}

Firstly, it’s the world’s best search engine. Search for something on Google and you see web sites; search on Youtube and you get videos; search on Facebook and you scroll through all the nonsense your ‘friends’ are up to… search a topic/person/business on Twitter and you get what everyone is talking about that right now. In many situations, this is immensely more powerful and useful than anything else.

Using Klout and Twitter together, you can see who is most influential, and who are the ‘amplifiers’ (heavy users who spread the word). Engaging with these people will send your messages further than you could on your own.

Searching google is fine for information retrieval, but if something has just happened (in sport, in the world) then Twitter is where you can get straight to the centre of things as they are unfolding. Usually from the horse’s mouth.

Twitter allows more than just 140 characters of text, but embedded within are links to web sites, photos, videos, and everything else you could imagine. It dissects and disseminates like nothing before, or since.

If you want to reach people, engage in conversations with those of similar interests, or see what’s happening, twitter is ideal.

Here are 10 ‘surprising’ facts about Twitter, courtesy of FastCompany

  1. Tweets with links included are 86% more likely to be retweeted
  2. Twitter engagement for brands is higher at the weekends
  3. Tweets with images get 2x the engagement (sharing, favouritising…)
  4. Tweets with less than 100 characters get 17% more engagement (even 140 is too much for some folks!)
  5. Twitter’s fastest growing demographic is 55-64 year olds (they started late, but are getting into it now)
  6. Tweets with hashtags (‘#’) get 2x the engagement (this allows you to look for similarly themed tweets, e.g. #perth or #worldcup)
  7. Mobile is responsible for 66% of brand-related tweets (people are out and about with their smartphones)
  8. Mobile tweeters are 181% more likely to be using it during their commute
  9. Amplifiers are 122% more likely to use direct messaging (a bit like email, to other twitter users who they mutually follow)
  10. If you ask for it to be retweeted, the tweet has 12x higher chance of being retweeted, 23% more likely if you mention the word ‘retweet’

The first tweet was sent on March 26th 2006 by one of the founders Jack Dorsey. Today, there are 750m users and 65m tweets are sent daily.

My latest presentation (‘How to be a Major Twit’) can be viewed here. Is it time for you to really engage in twitter, and see what it can do for you?

Klout scoring your twitter folks

Klout Scores showing on your twitter streamI am becoming more and more impressed with the new look Klout, a free service some may have dabbled with a few years ago, then put aside as a meaningless ‘online influence rating‘ score, and not much more.

Well the guys and gals at Klout have been working away to improve things and add value (do I have to remind you it’s still free?!) and a few weeks ago I posted about their new curation service. Yesterday I was prompted to download their new Chrome Browser app (yes, your internet browser can now come loaded with apps), which then acts as a fast way to keep tabs on your own klout page (to get that all that curation happening quick smart) but also displays everyone’s klout score on your twitter feed (see image grab above). Now that is interesting. Instantly, you can see who is more influential (remember, it’s not what you say so much as what others say about you). Seeing who is influential gives you a clue to how much power they have online (a bit like seeing the SEO power of a website as a score in search results).

Klout has not just released a new Chrome browser app, they also have one for Firefox or Safari browsers, so click here to  find out how to install them and how to use them.

Impressive Klout. You’re making it hard to ignore you!